Tonight will see Gareth O’Brien take on a new experience, as he plays against his beloved club for the first time.
The Salford star is set to feature in tonight’s televised clash with Warrington Wolves, the club O’Brien had been a part of since his teenage years before moving on at the end of last season.
In his time at the Wolves he played a role in some of their major accomplishments, including their Challenge Cup triumph of 2012 and their march to the 2013 Grand Final.
But the 24-year-old decided to call time on his stay with his hometown club, where he had made his professional debut at the age of 19, before making the move to the resurgent Red Devils.
“I’m looking forward to it,” admitted O’Brien.
“I’ve got some really good friends there. Over the years they have had a massive influence on my career so I’m very grateful towards the club. I have a lot of fond memories and lifelong friendships. It’s a club I have a huge admiration for, but I’ve moved on now and I’ll be giving 110% for the Salford Red Devils.”
O’Brien revealed that the decision to leave the club was mutually agreed with Tony Smith, who has since gone on to replace him with Australian Kurt Gidley.
The decision to leave the club he loved was inevitably a difficult choice to make, but the 24-year-old believes it was something he had to do for the sake of his career.
“There are two ways of looking at it,” he explained.
“In one way it was disappointing to leave because I’d been there for so long and it’s a great club. But on the other side I was looking forward to a fresh start at another club and getting stuck into a new challenge elsewhere. Salford gave me the opportunity to progress my career. I’m happy at the minute and enjoying my Rugby League at Salford. So I have no complaints.
“I think I’ve taken a bit of pressure off myself. I think I used to get too down on myself when I wasn’t performing well at Warrington, I don’t know why that was, maybe because I was a local lad.
“In the new position I’m playing I have a free role so I’m enjoying that and just trying to get back to playing the game and not putting too much pressure on myself.”
Salford have enjoyed a solid start to the campaign; after being thumped by Hull FC, they hit back emphatically with victory over St Helens, which was followed by success over league leaders Widnes and a narrow, controversial defeat to Wigan.
Their upturn in fortunes has coincided with a new approach from within, with the brash ways of old replaced by a humble, magnanimous approach to their successes.
“It’s a new beginning at the club with fresh faces and a togetherness that I don’t think Salford have had over the last few years,” said O’Brien.
“Watto is the head coach and he’s very enthusiastic. The boys have a lot of respect for him, I know I certainly have. He and Tim (Sheens) have a great partnership along with Martin Gleeson who has been great. We’re looking to build on all of that this year and it’s only something that can get better.
“We’re working hard for each other and if we continue to do that we won’t go far wrong, and I think we could surprise a few people this year.”